Tag Archives: News

Trust Me, I’ll Feel Guilty

As I’m waking up most mornings, I usually enjoy a cup of coffee in front of the computer while scrolling through various social media sites, picking up the news, and marveling over the commentary.  A while back LinkedIn started what it calls its “Daily Rundown” where it features select tidbits of business-related news and solicits comments.  The skew is usually pro-business and pro-employer, although you will also see pieces that are neutral or pro-employee.

The other day they featured an article about some research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled “Who is Trustworthy? Predicting Trustworthy Intentions and Behavior.”  The study used several economic games to measure the personality traits that predict if you can trust someone.  And what they discovered was that “guilt-proneness” was a powerful indicator of trustworthiness.

They distinguished “guilt-proneness” from “guilt” by defining it as the tendency to feel guilty about wrongdoing, thereby avoiding that wrongdoing, versus the negative emotion experienced when someone actually commits some transgression.  The gist of the article discussing the research was that if you wanted trustworthy employees, look for people with a high level of guilt-proneness.

The comments that followed ranged from equating guilt to perfectionism, extreme self-awareness, or having a conscience to guilt being a toxic form of shame that destroys self-esteem.  Some spoke of religion using guilt to control people.

One gentleman said, “I don’t do guilt – such a loser’s emotion,” although later he said he was being “tongue in cheek.”  One woman said, “Then employers should hire more young, white men.  For 50 years feminism has portrayed them as being Guilty of Everything.”  Oh dear, no backpedaling from her.

Yes, the commentary can get a bit dicey to say the least.  And it’s important to note how most of us seized on the word “guilt” as opposed to “guilt-proneness,” and seemed to miss the distinction the researchers were trying to make.  I looked at the verb form of the word myself.

Semantics can muddy the waters of any communication.

I’m not sure how an employer would go about measuring guilt-proneness.  In fact, it seems you would have to entice people to do something wrong and then measure their reaction – avoidance or commission.  Which is what the researchers did.  How would you do that objectively in a job interview or in the workplace after hiring someone?

I do know an employer locally that requires applicants to take a personality test.  I think that’s a bit extreme, and having worked for that employer in the past I imagine the purpose of the test is to screen out any non-conformists.  They don’t want to hire anyone who might question authority or their profit motivations.  I think they will end up screening out the most creative and adaptive applicants and end up with a hive of drones, but hey, that’s just my view 🙂  They may measure “trustworthiness” as a completely different concept – “blind loyalty.”

It is an interesting article and context is important.  Like I mentioned, I looked at the verb as in “guilting.”

When I was a practicing RN, I did a literature review of nursing management journals.  Forty articles out of four hundred – 10% – were dedicated to describing methods for employers to take advantage of, or abuse, their staff.  One in particular was titled, “Manipulation, Making the Best of It.”  The article focused totally on using guilt as a means to take advantage of the staff.  Guilt is a powerful motivator for caregivers and management was encouraged to guilt their staff into working additional 12-hour shifts, accepting ridiculous patient loads, floating to units where they did not have expertise, not taking breaks, and even into not getting paid for their work.

One winter, after an extremely heavy snowfall, my ex was guilted by her employer into trying to go to work.  We lived out in the country and the roads were impassable.   She barely made it out of the driveway when she tried and had to put both of our cars in the ditch to finally absolve her of that boss-instilled guilt.

So while the article focused on how the propensity to feel guilt can be a reflection of the trustworthiness of employees, the question I would ask is if we can trust employers, or anyone else for that matter, not to use guilt as a weapon.  Maybe that’s a better measure of trustworthiness 🙂

***

Photo: I wasn’t sure what pic to choose for this one, but decided this innocent, young buck was a good one.  I was at a distance and made a slight noise to attract its attention.  He warily observed me, not knowing whether he could trust me not to do him harm.  Our eyes met for a spell, after which, he leisurely resumed his grazing.  I guess I somehow communicated that I meant him no malice.

Wavelengths

Have you ever noticed how you might be thinking about something, maybe even putting pen to paper to memorialize those thoughts, and then suddenly someone else says something that is exactly what was in your mind?  As if they had reached inside your head and grabbed it.

Or maybe, you had just read something that really intrigued you and suddenly material on that same topic starts popping up everywhere?  A friend recommends a book – same subject.  You see an advertisement for a TV documentary – same subject.  A billboard along the highway – same subject.  A blog post from a friend mirrors that same subject.

Affirmations from the world around us.  We’re on the same wavelength.

And none of this is related to some mainstream news cycle.  Maybe it’s about showing gratitude.  Or demonstrating generosity.  Or learning to smile at the beauty that surrounds us.

This seems to happen all the time, if we’re paying attention, and it happened again just the other day when my blogging friend Searching for Grady posted to her blog.  It’s a piece she calls, “Migratory Spirits” about the twelve virtues.

And it just so happens, I’m reading a book about the twelve virtues called, “The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living.”  The author, Joseph M. Marshall III, dedicates a chapter to each virtue.  Providing the Sioux word and pronunciation, and then telling some traditional stories to illustrate the concepts.

So we have:

Humility – Unsiiciyapi  (un-shee-ee-cee-yah-pee) to be humble, modest, unpretentious;

Perseverance – Wowacintanka (wo-wah-chin-tan-gah) to persist, strive in spite of difficulties;

Respect – Wawoohola (wah-wo-o-ho-lah) to be considerate, to hold in high esteem;

Honor – Wayuonihan (wah-you-v-knee-han) to have integrity, an honest and upright character;

Love – Cantognake (chan-doe-gnan-key) to place and hold in one’s heart;

Sacrifice – Icicupi (ee-chee-chu-pee) to give of oneself, an offering;

Truth – Wowicake (wo-wee-jah-keh) that which is real, the way the world is;

Compassion – Waunsilapi (wah-un-shee-lah-pee) to care, to sympathize;

Bravery – Woohitike (wo-oh-hee-tee-keh) having or showing courage;

Fortitude – Cantewasake (can-te-wah-sha-keh) strength of heart and mind;

Generosity – Canteyuke (chan-te-you-keh) to give, to share, to have heart;

and,

Wisdom – Woksape (wo-ksa-peh) to understand what is right and true, to use knowledge wisely.

Isn’t it amazing how these ideas seem to travel.  I don’t think it’s solely because of the Internet or modern communications either.  While we might look at these systems as being more dendrites in the collective nervous system, ideas seem to travel with or without exterior electronics.  We are all connected.  We may have just not realized how widespread collective thoughts manifest.

There are no coincidences.

I find it encouraging that at a time when there seems to be more division and hatred spreading like a cancer, that the twelve virtues have emerged.  Perhaps as the antibodies to defeat such infections.

May the thoughts and the actions from the virtues gain lightspeed 🙂

***

Photo: The sun rises over a rock formation in the Badlands.  A universal symbol.  The sun rising, a new day, new beginnings, a fresh start, we’ve embarked on a new journey.  These thoughts arise in everyone’s minds, synchronously, without the need to speak.  Perhaps a look into another’s eyes, the nod of a head.  Just knowing.

Sans Forgetica

As I was waking up with my morning coffee, I stumbled upon an article about a new, scientifically designed font.  The font intentionally makes reading the text a little more difficult.  And the reason it does this so is so you won’t forget the content.

“Sans Forgetica” means, you guessed it, “Without Forgetting.”

The principle behind the design is called “Desirable Difficultly.”  I guess I haven’t been keeping up with the educational research, or I’ve forgotten it, but this concept was credited to Robert Bjork back in 1994.  The basic idea is this: introducing difficulties into the learning process can significantly improve long-term retention of the materials learned.

Some examples of employing this technique in the classroom include: (1) spacing learning sessions apart – I guess that makes one review the material sequentially before the next lesson is given so you’ll know what the teacher is talking about; (2) more testing – although that seems old school; (3) generating – having learners produce the target material through an active process like making a puzzle; (4) varying – switching up learning environments; (5) disorganization – scrambling the material; and (6) fonts – making the material slightly harder to read.  Thus, San Forgetica.

I guess disorganization was part of the secret when I was in law school.  The instructors intentionally played “hide-the-ball” to force us to search out the answers.

Apparently deeper processing of material is better for us, and the long-standing approach to education of reducing material to its simplest form and spoon-feeding it to us has really been to our detriment.  The theorists supporting the theory of desirable difficulty go into a lengthy explanation of the differences between learning versus performance and retrieval strength versus storage strength.

I won’t go into all of that scientific analysis, but if you wish to read more, you can read this short article in Psychology Today – Desirable Difficulties in the Classroom.  And, here is link to a chapter of a book about learning authored by Elizabeth and Robert Bjork – Making Things Hard on Yourself, But in a Good Way: Creating Desirable Difficulties to Enhance Learning.

I guess this theory gives new meaning to the old adage of having to “learn things the hard way.”

And if you would like to download the font, you can find that here: Sans Forgetica.    I downloaded it, but apparently WordPress doesn’t support it so I can’t write this text in that font, but I was able to add it to my photo to give you this example.

Firework - Sans Forgetica

More fun for the world of writing 🙂

***

Photo: This pic is a one-second timed exposure during a fireworks display.  I just kept taking shots with the camera locked on a tripod and I eventually got some goods ones that froze that blink-of-an-eye flare of burning gunpowder 🙂

 

Framers, Federalists, and the Reality of the Administrative State

The Framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid the problems of the governments they were all running away from in Europe, so while they wanted a centralized government for certain functions, like taxation, printing a common currency and conducting wars, they also wanted less power in that centralized government to prevent abuses and more power vested in the individual states who theoretically would better be able to determine their specific jurisdictional policies and priorities.

They also wanted to form a Union, and concessions were required to get all of the states on board.

Of course, terminology in law is often stood on its head and “Federalism” has become one of those terms.  Federalism, generically speaks to the relationships between the federal and state governments and the original “Federalists” wanted some form of centralized government as opposed to those who did not.  But the term does not mean more “Federalization” of government, it means less.

The philosophy of the Federalist Society today advocates for a very limited federal government, for a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, and for strong adherence to the separation of powers doctrine.  That doesn’t sound so bad.

Except, “strict construction” and “strong adherence” are just as susceptible to legislative and executive manipulation and to judicial activism as is applying the “spirit” of the Constitution.  And laws and social policy are shaped and changed just the same by “textualists” as they are by “living documentalists.”

It is all a fight over words, definitions, and semantics, and it’s all highly partisan and politicized regardless of any faction claiming otherwise.

And, the reason I bring this up is because how this all intertwines with what has become the modern “Administrative State,” and the massive amount of power being wielded by federal and state agencies that weren’t created in the Constitution.  This seems not to have been contemplated by the Founders and certainly seems opposed to what modern-day Federalists all talk about.  So how did this come to be?

And again, standing language on its head we have the “Non-Delegation” doctrine flowing from Article I and the Separation of Powers doctrine.  So we have three branches of government that are supposed to stay put in their respective arenas, provide checks and balances, and not run around giving their authority away to the other branches or interfering with the authority of the other branches.

For example, Congress can’t pass a law that would allow the executive branch to pass legislation – they can’t delegate that authority away.  But the Non-Delegation doctrine has been stood on its head and has become a means of defining the opposite.  It is used to define just what authority Congress can delegate away and who gets to control that authority.

And while Congress largely gives away authority to the executive branch, it will at times, muck around with the authority of the courts by tinkering with structure and jurisdiction, and by dangling the power of the purse over the heads of the judiciary when they get upset over an unconstitutional law being struck down.

Turns out, the Constitution, over time, probably to the chagrin of the Federalists, has been interpreted to allow Congress to create executive branch level agencies.  They create agencies with what we refer to as “Organic” or “Enabling” statutes and while the agencies’ powers are limited by these statutes, Congress gave agencies a little boost by allowing them to promulgate “rules.”  And, gee whiz, rules, if properly promulgated, have the same force and effect as statutes.  Lawmaking.

When you think about it, Congress expanded the executive branch big time.  They created much more of it than the Constitution originally did and much more of it than people probably like.  And, then they delegated away some of their legislative power to the executive branch (rule-making), but we call this quasi-legislative authority.  And what the Legislature (Big “L”) giveth, it can taketh away.  Although changes may be slow.

This is true at both the Federal and State level and we have Administrative Procedures Acts at both levels to give agencies some guidance and fill in the gaps in the agency-specific Organic statutes.  And these procedures allow agencies to intrude into the Judicial branch too!  They give agencies quasi-judicial powers to hear and decide contested cases, subject to judicial review of course.

And guess what, since the executive branch enforces the law and agencies are by nature regulatory bodies, we naturally have executive prosecutorial functions as well.  So agencies can make the law, prosecute under that law, and convict you (so to speak) under that law, all under one roof.

Agencies do a little more than licensing and maintaining files of annual reports.

Of course, the legislature generally did not delegate any authority to agencies to run around imprisoning people as punishment for any types of violations, so once the agency “convicts” you, the only penalties agencies can implement have to be found in the statutes themselves or you have to go to court for yet another judicial proceeding.  The Sixth Amendment is still alive, for the moment.

Federal and State legislatures can’t be experts in everything and there is so, so much to regulate that we have evolved into a “Administrative State” that has multiple layers of regulation that come from authority delegated out to the Executive Branch by Congress or by State Legislatures.  And the executive agencies’ regulations and decisions are given considerable deference by the Courts because the agencies are the “experts” in their respective fields.

So while many people focus on the acts of the legislature, which is a good thing to do, they should also pay close attention to what’s happening at the state and federal agencies, because there is much more law and social policy setting going on there that has a much more immediate impact on the populous.  You can look at current environmental policies for example.

There, I just kind of laid out the framework for how agencies evolved.  I’m not trying to address how different administrations have used the agencies to implement particular agendas or the merits of specific agendas.  At least not today 🙂

***

Photo:  My pocket Constitution.  These things are good little tools to have and it might be wise to read the Document once and a while.  The Constitution is actually pretty short.  And pretty amazingly well done.  The development of the Administrative State has shifted major powers to the executive branch, and that is partly why administrations do receive so much attention – because of the dramatic effect they can have on people’s day-to-day lives.

BTW: On a personal note.  Federal and state agencies have administrative law judges to preside over the quasi-judicial functions and trials at the agencies.  For part of my legal career I was a state Regulatory Law Judge.

About a year and a half ago, I applied to make the registry of qualified applicants for Federal Administrative Law Judges.  My understanding is they get 12,000 applicants when they open the registry, which is only opened about once every five years.  And they whittle that number down to 200 with an objective examination process.

They have been doing this since 1920 to ensure they get qualified applicants and to minimize the politicization of the process.

The competitive application process consisted of a series of examinations conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  I made the list, scoring in that top 1.67% of the applicants 🙂 !! This didn’t guarantee me a position, but I could have been selected when there was a vacancy, subject to another interview process.

I recently received an email from the OPM informing me that our president, by executive order, terminated the competitive application process and eliminated the list of qualified applicants, thus doing what no other president has done since the registry’s creation and injecting politics into the selection process.  Selection by one, with no standard for qualifications.

Kind of sad, because the checks and balances set up by the Framers, and even those originally put in place by the independent branches, have been slowly getting whittled away, bit by bit . . .

 

 

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo set sail some 50 years after Columbus, leaving Mexico to discover a route to Asia and the Spice Islands.  On September 28, 1542 he sailed into what is now the harbor of San Diego.  He called the area San Miguel.

He would be dead some three months later, allegedly the result of infection from wounds sustained fighting with the Chumash Indians on Isla de la Posesion.  His mission unfulfilled.  He was considered to be the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States and this monument honors him.

Included in the monument is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse; World War II defense bunkers and gun batteries, and the Point Loma Tide Pools, which are host to an amazing ecosystem.  Point Loma is also passed by migrating gray whales every year, a round trip of 12,000 miles beginning in their Arctic feeding grounds for their return to the Baja California Sur Bays, their breeding coast.

While I was there, I hiked the Bayside Trail giving me a nice look over the Bay and many vessels navigating it.  I also headed down to the tidal pools, but the waters were too rough to really be able to see the marine wildlife.

The major contrast I saw between this area and the city life I’ve described in my prior two posts was that of calm.

The level of self and technological absorption really was significantly less.  Actual human interaction was up.  People were in awe of one thing.

The Ocean.

Yes, the ocean has that power over people.  It can slow their brains and sooth their souls.

Everyone just found a spot, had a seat, and it took it all in.  It really was quite amazing seeing the transition.

The Power of Mother Earth.

***

Title: I’m sure you noticed I’m using different languages for the word “Chapter.”  I was just having a bit of fun since I am coming across blogs of people speaking different languages.  I find the text to be beautiful even if I can’t read it.  I simply plug it in to Google Translator.  I wonder how the human mind internalizes a given language as we grow up.  Fascinating.

Prior Chapters: Contrasts – Kapitel 1 & Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Galleries:  And now a few photos from the day. 

Cabrillo 9 + C1

 

 

 

 

 

Skyline

Nature is by far my most favorite place to be.  It is there I feel like I belong.  Like I am myself.

But there is beauty in everything if we choose to see it.  This photo is of the city-scape of San Diego from when I visited.  And it is mesmerizing in its own way.

***

 

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

I awoke for my usual start to the day, at sunrise.  But the sun doesn’t exactly rise in San Diego.  It’s a bit disorienting.  That thick haze.  You think it might rain, but it burns off around ten in the morning.  That mix of smog and humidity.  Then you can see the sun.

By the time I could see the sun, I had been at the zoo for almost two hours.

I have always loved going to the Zoo.  And the San Diego Zoo has been on my bucket list for a while.  It’s definitely worth the visit.

It’s really more than a zoo – it’s multiple zoos and it’s a botanical garden in its own right.

You have to admit there is a bit of irony in the concept of a zoo.  People, who are animals, are placing other animals into captivity to view them, enjoy them, and protect them from annihilation by the human animals that put them there.  There are some animals that are extinct in the world now and only exist in zoos being run by other animals.  Us animals.

Humans seem to want to divorce themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom.  Without truly understanding the animals they put in cages, humans may pass judgment believing their relatives are inferior, have limited brain capacity, and have no spirits.

I, and obviously many others, would disagree with those presumptions.  Most of us are probably happy that we’ve recognized our destructive abilities and are at least trying to preserve these beautiful spirits.

I have never seen a child fail to smile at some point during a visit to see the wondrous animals at the zoo.

Our society has been changing though.  When I was growing up, we were taught a sense of community first.  Then we were encouraged to develop our individuality.  Today that’s reversed and the concept of community may not be emphasized at all.

So I witnessed a big transition at this visit to the Zoo.  What were people taking pictures of – themselves.  Oh yeah, they might put an animal or two in the background, but the central idea appears to be wanting to document the humans’ existence at a particular place or time.  It is not “Look at the beautiful Giraffe!”  It is “Hey, look at me!  See what I’m doing.  I’m at the zoo.  The Giraffe proves it.”

Sorry if that sounds a bit cynical, but that seems to be a lot of what I witnessed in terms of the human animal at the zoo.   I could challenge many of the animals with cameras to show me a picture of just the animals.  Many would meet that challenge.  Others, perhaps not.

I saw an incredible amount of self-absorption and technological absorption out there.  It’s not healthy.  Many didn’t know how to react when a friendly stranger would say hi, or agree with a comment they made admiring the rhino.  They would stare at me in shock because they had actually been spoken too.  Maybe if I had texted 🙂

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying these folks are bad.  I just may have a few different priorities or a different orientation, and I think it would help pull people together to have a broad concept of  community – including all of the animal community.

To have a community bond, we must communicate.  Look each other in the eye and not be afraid to speak.  To share.

That’s just a little food for thought as I weave in the theme of contrasts.  And we’ll come back to that theme in a different context in another chapter.

For now, I’m going to post a gallery of pictures.  I’m not in any of them 🙂

Not every pic is crystal clear.  The animals didn’t always face me or pose for me. Sometimes I moved the camera.  One technique I tried to use when possible was blurring out bars and cages and fences.  It doesn’t always work though.

I included the Guam Kingfisher, even though the cage blurred the pic.  Because it’s extinct in the wild, this may be the only way to see it.

I hope there are a few you enjoy.

 

 

 

Soon . . .

A few weeks back, I wrote a piece about having an encounter with a Bear.  As you can see from my feature pic, I have had another.  This time, I was able to get a nice photo of this magnificent spirit.

You may have noticed that while I’ve been making posts to my Photo Journal, I usually don’t reveal my exact location.  I do this for a number of reasons.  One is I often see people on social media giving the play-by-play of everything they are doing and everywhere they are.  They share their personal information as well.

And predictably, people doing this on Facebook have had their homes burglarized while telling everyone they’re soaking up the sun on the beach.  I’ve also learned that privacy protections on social media platforms basically suck.

But I am going to make a post soon where I do reveal some locations, after the fact, because I want to make some fun comparisons.

In the meant time, appreciate this magnificent  Grizzly 🙂

Grizzly - Day 2 - 1+C1

***

 

Wired

Building on a theme I have going on brain development, I wanted to explore rule 3 of the book “Brain Rules” written by John Medina.  You might recall my previous two posts on this, Move Your Body, Move Your Mind, and Writing to Survive.  Well today, we’re looking at “wiring.”  While we might think generally that men and women are wired differently, for example, fact is, all of us are wired differently.

To understand how we’re all wired differently, we first have to look at the cells that compose our bodies.  Billions of cells, that are all acting independently from our thought processes.  Thank goodness.  Our minds are jumbled enough without us having to consciously think and direct the activities of all of the complex and differentiated cells in our bodies.  Can you imagine having to think about absolutely every body function at the microscopic cellular level.  Not to mention the macro-level of organ function.  Come on, breathe body breathe, beat you silly heart . . .

And each of our cells become specialized when the 6 feet of DNA in each cell is folded in a particular way to fit in the microns-sized nucleus.  For perspective, this has been compared to taking 30 miles of fishing line and cramming it inside an object the size of a blueberry.

While we could talk for days about all of the differentiated cells in our bodies and all of their unique functions, since we are looking at our brains, let’s talk neurons.  These are, of course, the tiny structures firing off electrical charges like lightning bolts at 250 miles per hour and causing chemical neurotransmitters to be released that bridge the gaps between neurons called synapses and carry that signal forward somewhere into our gray matter where we interpret it.  We are basically electro-chemical machines.

That always makes me wonder how all of the electronic pollution we are dumping into the airways affects us.  Maybe that’s how we end up with mass shooters, who knows?

Turns out that as we learn, the neurons are shifting and solidifying pathways for communication to each other.  We can relearn things too and reshape our neural wiring.  That’s called neuroplasticity.  What we do and experience actually physically changes our brains.  And the more activity we make our brains perform, the larger and more complex they can become.

The author identifies three types of brain wiring:

Experience Independent wiring = controlling breathing, heart rate, proprioceptive sensations, etc.;
Experience Expectant wiring = things like visual acuity and language acquisition; and
Experience-Dependent wiring = hard-wired not be hard-wired = flexible, sensitive to external inputs and thus cultural programing.

The latter two forms of wiring explain how we are acculturated or assimilated into any particular culture or social structure.  We must beware of our programming.  Especially that programming that starts in early childhood.  We should continually question everything and rewire our brains as needed 😊

No two brains are alike, not even identical twins, because every brain experiences the same phenomena differently creating different memories and the resulting changes in the physical structure to the brain.  This is why neurosurgeons have to do brain mapping on each and every one of their patients before slicing and dicing.  They can’t know ahead of time which precise areas of the brain are tied to which functions because each person is unique.

It also turns out that the brains of wild animals are 15 to 30 percent larger than their tame domestic counterparts.  So, it would seem that living in the wild requires constant learning and adapting.  A different intelligence, perhaps, is required for survival.

That might make one wonder if we become less intelligent the more we become domesticated and sedentary???  Or perhaps we’re just more specialized.  This makes the concept of intelligence a bit more nuanced, which leads researchers to hypothesize about different types of intelligence – verbal, musical, logical, spatial, bodily, interpersonal and intrapersonal.  Such brain differences can be detected when comparing brains of say musicians to athletes.

Since all of our brains develop at different rates and develop completely differently because we all experience things differently, wiring can predict performance.  And education systems, with one set of standards fits all, end up mismatching performance expectations to linear age.

The implications are that smaller class size and individual attention results in, not only improved learning but, more equalized learning.  Teachers with smaller numbers of students can make use of the Theory of Mind I brought up in my last posting on the brain.  They can assess their individual students and gear instruction to improve individual performance.  I guess we have an argument to support home schooling here.

Where does all of this brain talk lead to today?  Well, if we are all wired differently, and if no one experiences any singular event in the same way, then are the images any of us try to convey with words the ones the reader or hearer receives?  Or do each of us have a completely different experience filled with visions, tastes, touches, smells that the storyteller never imagined?

I’ve always said communication is difficult even on a good day.

Intriguing, isn’t it?  Keep on firing neurons !

***

Lightening 5+C1

Photo: Not only are lightning bolts demonstrative of the way neurons work, they are actually similar in structure.  I imagine a giant electrical storm going on in our minds constantly 🙂

Woody Guthrie

A friend posted a link to a Woody Guthrie song on Facebook the other day.  He is a big music fan and appreciates a lot of the older musicians.  It was the anniversary of Guthrie’s birthday, July 14th.

I knew the song well, but I went to the link on You Tube to listen again and that’s when I noticed them.  The comments.

I look at a lot posts now days, not for the actual content, but for the comments.  It is sort of like taking the pulse of the public.  True, it is not a representative sample of the general public and one shouldn’t put too much emphasis or importance on these minority of remarks.  But it can be amusing at times.  Or enlightening.

Everything, and I mean everything, seems to be politically charged right now.  I saw a post about the FBI crime statistics and immediately people were trying to link crime with political party affiliation.  Heck, they should just look at the politicians themselves for that.  Plenty of criminals there.

But the average murder, I imagine, has more to do with passion, the heat of the moment, or a robbery or other crime, or something else much more mundane.  When I worked for the top court in my state, I had to review all of the state’s death penalty cases.  I can guarantee you not a single murder case I looked at had anything to do with politics.

But people see what they want to see.

I imagine the politicians are patting themselves on their backs.  They have successfully, maybe too successfully, divided the country into polar opposites and many people just can’t wait to add their commentary and witticisms to any thread on social media.  And I’ll give some credit, some of their remarks are actually smart and funny 😊

Insults have become popular, though, so there is a whole bunch of eye-poking and head-slapping going on out there.  I’ve generally quit trying to add rational thoughts to the mix as the responses are, well, just kind of out there in the ozone layer, what’s left of it.

Once, apparently not liking my ideas, a person fired back that they had my IP address and were going to come to my home, rape my mother and kill my whole family.  Another time, I was called a “Communist putz” because I had said something regarding the greed and materialism I see in the current culture.  The level of civil discourse sometimes deteriorates in cyber world.

I like the blogging world much better.  People are generally more positive here, more thoughtful in their presentations, and willing to have a real discussion.

At any rate, this song was no different from any other post.  It was politicized quickly.  It was a folk song about America, after all.  And forms of government became a point of contention.  Not surprising considering Woody Guthrie often had the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on his guitar.

It seems to me that the lines have been blurred between our form of government and our economic and maybe even our religious systems.  Democracy is not the same as capitalism.  Socialism is not the same as Communism.  People worshiping money or monetary systems are certainly not religious in any respect.

I did like one of the comments though because I thought it showed a level of balance so here it is:

“Considering human history and the teachings of the major world religions, it seems that your statement about greed being a natural human trait is largely true. It’s also been recognized as an evil impulse for thousands of years by virtually every strain of human thought. One way to view capitalism is the institutionalization of greed. It has benefits and drawbacks, and most world democracies have settled on a capitalist system with some governmental regulation as “the best of all possible worlds.” Those who advocate for unfettered socialism seem to be ignorant of or OK with losing all of capitalism’s early benefits: constant innovation; rewarding hard work, talent, intelligence, and risk; and a strong individual work ethic. Those who advocate for unfettered capitalism seem to be ignorant of or OK with the oligarchy that quickly overtakes it as the rich use their power to stifle innovation, fix markets, and disconnect the link between talent, hard work, and upward mobility. They seem to also be OK with the violent revolt of the disenfranchised that must surely follow.”     — Patrick Lollis

Any thoughts?

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The Woody Guthrie song link:  This Land is Your Land

Feature Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  It was linked back to an NPR site with an interview about Woody Guthrie.

BTW: I added the Politics section to my blog because sometimes I’ll have to write something that wanders into this pasture.  But you may have noticed that I don’t post too often in this section.  I am still working on the art of presenting controversial topics neutrally.  I like to keep discussions alive and love to hear what others have to say.  Being extreme in one’s presentation may be provocative, but the discussion will usually deteriorate and die quite quickly that way.  I’d rather have an open mind and listen to well articulated ideas 🙂

 

Freedom Begins With Speech

It was the end of March and the cherry trees were in full bloom around the Tidal Basin.  Across the water on the south bank sat the Jefferson Memorial.  A fitting memorial for one of our Founding Fathers and the principle author of our Declaration of Independence.

We were preparing to march . . .

While many can recite the most famous sentence in our Declaration, regarding self-evident truths, being created equal, and the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I wonder how many have read this document through.  For you see, it continues with a petition of grievances against the British government.  It is a protest.

And years later, to solidify the right to protest in this newly formed independent country, the First Amendment was added to our Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The group I was assembling with was a group of nurses, some 25,000 to 35,000 strong.  Here in D.C. to protest unsafe hospital staffing conditions and use of unlicensed personnel in place of registered nurses.  We were protesting to support every patient’s right to receive the finest health care treatment available.

Yes, protest is a fundamental right in this country.  It is one of those many rights that generations of our military have fought to protect.  It is not a right to be lightly discarded.  It is not a right to be denigrated if any individual group’s cause is not your own.  It is not an inconvenience to be suffered should a traditional public forum, such as the sidewalk or roadway, becomes crowded with picketers waving signs.  It is a right that should be respected and honored.

We gathered at the west front of the Capitol.  The planned march to follow presentations would proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue and end at the White House.

Capitol Protestors 8

Particularly troubling to me is an all too familiar refrain when petitioners draw light upon an issue, that if you don’t like something, that if you believe something could be changed for the better, that if you see a different way, that you should simply get out.  Leave the entrenched and established protocols alone.  Leave accepted bigotry and hatred be.  Leave injustice unaddressed.  Leave the very democracy that supports the right to protest.  “Love it or leave it.”

This attitude, of course, if accepted in the late 1700s would have kept this country a slave to the British Crown.  There would be no Declaration of Independence, just sheep meandering the pastures, herded by an occupying army.

Now, I’m not saying all causes are good causes.  But the right to petition, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to freely speak your mind are rights that should be held in reverence.  These rights form the pillars of democracy.

And march we did, united in our cause against corporate profiteering off the ill and suffering.

The March to the White House

We, unfortunately, seem to be living in a time of growing intolerance.  Where even our leaders act in bigoted fashion.  Where those who speak out, or adopt silent protest, are vilified.  If you have a different point of view you are told to leave.

But the “love it or leave it” mentality demonstrates a lack of a fundamental understanding of US Government – which was formed by dissenters from authoritarian rule and built upon the liberal principle of humanism.  The Constitution built in safeguards for states from federal government, safeguards for both the majority and the minority views.  And it allows for freedom of expression and the power to vote.  Saying people should leave if they do not conform to your viewpoint is communistic, not American.

And I can’t tell you how exhilarating it is to speak out for a cause you believe in, and to know you live in a country where this right will be protected.  I would strongly recommend that everyone in this country take a stand on something they believe in, to become active participants in our government.

Four generations of my family have served in the US military protecting our rights, and I am proud when people exercise those rights and protest.  That is what makes this country great.

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Photos:  I took these during the Nurses’ March on Washington D.C. in 1995.

Post Script 1: In my late teens I also participated in a much smaller local protest regarding voting rights.  It seems the 18-year-olds we were drafting into our military were allowed to fight and die for this country in Vietnam, but they didn’t have the right to vote.  The voting age was 21 then.  Nation-wide protests were organized, and the country changed the law.  But even if the law had not changed, I would still have been proud to participate in this established system for redressing grievances.  Dissent and protest formed this country.  These are honorable traditions.

Post Script 2: The Constitution should be viewed as a contract between the government and its people.  The government cannot infringe upon the rights guaranteed in this document.  However, private employers, to the extent other laws do not apply, can infringe upon those rights.  Thus, we have the current controversy about the NFL requiring their players to stand for the national anthem and not engage in protest.  This action is legal because the NFL is a private club and not a government actor.  But I don’t believe this action should be condoned by any government official who is bound to follow the Constitution.  For a leader of this nation to express intolerance of the people exercising their fundamental rights as citizens, rights that our men and women in uniform have fought for and died to protect, borders on tyranny.  And as is expressed in our Declaration of Independence: “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Post Script 3: By the way, health care is still not recognized as a fundamental right in this country.  Sad.  In fact, the only law I am aware of that requires the administration of health care is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).  The law requires that a patient, upon presentation to an emergency room, be stabilized before they are transported to a different facility.  The law was designed to curtail the practice of “patient dumping.”  Ambulance services and hospitals were redirecting and dumping patients in state-run facilities once they found out they had no insurance.  This profit-based practice was endangering lives.

Your Castle, Your Bubble, and What You Can’t Do to Protect Them

This is not an article about gun control, it’s about controlling yourself with guns.  For as a Louisiana man just found out the hard way, you may think you have the right to fire a weapon at a someone, especially a criminal, but it all depends on the situation . . .

Disclaimer: The information in this article does not, in any way, constitute legal advice.  Everyone should consult their own states’ laws and/or an attorney of their choosing if they wish to obtain an expert legal opinion of the laws in their jurisdiction and how they apply to them.

When I was clerking for a State Supreme Court Justice, in addition to drafting legal memorandum and court opinions, I gave tours of the courthouse along with historical lectures.  Invariably, people on the tours would ask questions about the laws and how they worked, especially the most controversial ones.  Like how judges get elected or appointed, abortion, or guns laws.

As I learned quickly in law school, the law generally does not work the way it is commonly perceived or displayed on TV.  I’m sorry, but you can’t get a legal education by watching Judge Judy.

So, explaining the law is sometimes tricky.  A case in point.  On one of my tours, a man asked a question, or rather he made a statement, that I tried to assist him with.  Basically, he said that since the state was going to allow its citizens to carry concealed weapons that this would immunize anyone with a legal weapon from any form of liability.  And, of course, he was wrong.

But despite my explanation of what the law stated and what it didn’t state, he refused to accept the facts that even if you are justified with using a firearm, that does not give you a license to shoot innocent bystanders if you are negligent or even shoot at criminals if the tables have been turned and you have become the aggressor and not the defender.  There are good reasons for this, because if you own one of these tools you have to use it responsibly.

I will try to summarize these legal precepts based upon my state’s laws as they are written.

Self Defense

With a few exceptions, you are allowed to use physical force against another to the extent reasonably necessary to defend yourself or others from an aggressor if you reasonably believe the aggressor is using, or will imminently use, unlawful force against yourself or those others.  But you can’t use deadly force unless, you believe it is necessary to protect yourself or others from death, serious injury or a forcible felony.

Castle Doctrine

You can use deadly force if it is used against a person who unlawfully enters, or remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling or residence that you lawfully occupy; provided that it is necessary for self defense as stated above.  “A [person’s] home is their castle.”

Extension of the Castle Doctrine

The Castle Doctrine was extended to vehicles you lawfully occupy.  And extended further to where you can use deadly force in the same circumstances above if you occupy private property where you’ve been given authority to occupy that property.

Stand Your Ground

There used to be a duty to retreat from a situation if you could without engaging in a confrontation, even to protect yourself.  But that duty was eliminated in the following circumstances.  There is no longer a duty to retreat from a dwelling or residence or vehicle or private property or any location where you have a lawful right to be.

Keep in mind, if you are standing your ground, to engage in self-defense using deadly force you must still face an imminent threat of death, serious injury, or be the victim of a forcible felony.

To sum it up, there is a bubble around you and you have the right to protect yourself within that lawfully-occupied bubble without running away, but only if you face an imminent threat.

So back to Louisiana and what you can’t do.  A home invader entered the residence with a gun, stole cell phones and fired the gun at the feet of one of the occupants.  The occupants gained the upper hand, took the gun, and one occupant pistol-whipped the intruder.  The invader broke away and ran to his vehicle.  Note, he is no longer the aggressor and no longer unlawfully inside the home.  One of the occupants then opened fire on the fleeing vehicle striking the would-be robber twice.

That’s where things went awry.  The occupant of the home was not under any imminent threat of physical force being used against him at the time he opened fire.  There was no one else that needed protecting.  The invader had fled and was no longer remaining in the residence after having unlawfully entered it.  There was no longer a forcible felony occurring.

The lawful occupant that wanted to play cowboy ended up being convicted of attempted manslaughter.  Understand, that doesn’t let the invader off the hook.  He will still be tried for his crimes.  But no one is given the license to become a criminal because of another person’s criminal acts.  None of these legal doctrines offer protection from criminal or civil liability unless your situation matches the specific instances where you are legally allowed to use force or deadly force.

If the occupant firing the weapon at the fleeing criminal had negligently hit an innocent bystander, then he would also be subject to a personal injury lawsuit by that bystander.  That would be a civil matter separate and distinct from the criminal matter for which he was tried and convicted.

Yes, we have a right to own firearms and, yes, we have a right to defend ourselves when we are within our lawful bubbles, but those rights are not unlimited and we are not allowed to play cop or vigilante.

I know a lot of people who own guns.  Sometimes that ownership becomes incorporated in their ego.  They imagine themselves to be bigger than they are, stronger, more in control, and powerful.  God-like in their ability to take a life.  And therein lies the problem, it’s not that they have more control over the circumstances surrounding them, they have a greater responsibility to control themselves.

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Post Script:  I will be writing a piece on the 2nd Amendment before too long.  I had hoped to wait until the frenzy surrounding mass shootings and gun control had subsided, but it appears that, with the continual onslaught of gun violence, waiting for emotions to die down may not be possible.

Post Script # 2: After my post went up yesterday, a friend mentioned to be me she didn’t believe ego was always an issue with gun ownership.  And I agree.  Sometimes people find themselves in situations where they may be caught up in the moment or acting out of passion and not rationally thinking.  Other times a person may be confronted with a would-be perpetrator and that person has to hope they are making the best judgment call in the way they defend themselves because, while they have no desire to hurt another, they do not wish to become a victim either.  Who would?  The possible scenarios are limitless.  This all points to the need for good training and practice.  And the need to learn and understand the lawful uses of such weapons.

Photo: This photo was found on the Internet in the public domain.  A link to it traces back to the Virgin Island Free Press.

Link: Louisiana man convicted of attempted manslaughter for shooting at fleeing home invader.

Note: All links are subject to link rot.

Antimony, Stibine, Babies, and Death

Recently, I was tested for heavy metal poisoning and the tests showed abnormally high levels of 4 different metals, and not-so-good levels of another three.  One of the metals that was abnormally high was Antimony.  Now I remember this metal, barely, from college chemistry courses, but how on earth did it end up in me, and in an elevated amount?

It seems Antimony is used in fireproofing textiles and plastics.  It can be found in battery electrodes, ceramics, pigments, and gun powder.  It can also be found in soft plastic bottles used for water and the water can become contaminated depending on storage conditions.

Blankets, mattress covers, and even clothing have been treated with this chemical.  And much like the spraying of insecticides and fungicides (biocides) on clothing, manufacturers do this to extend the life of their products and theoretically increase public safety.  The big problem is that the toxic effects of all of these chemicals are being discovered later.  This stuff can be absorbed right through the skin, our largest organ.

No, not all things in life can be improved through chemistry.  In fact, some of this chemistry may prolong the life of our clothing and fabrics, but it may also be killing us and our babies.  It turns out, our clothing may remain long after our bodies return to dust.

You see, some New Zealand researchers proposed a hypothesis, gathered evidence, and then other experts set out to disprove their hypothesis and research.

Boiling this all down, the theory is like this:

Mattresses and mattress covers contain the fire retardant chemicals Antimony, Phosphorus, and Arsenic;

These chemicals can be broken down by molds to form the toxic gases of Stibine, Phosphine and Arsine;

In particular, Antimony can be broken down by the mold Scopulariopsis brevicaulis to give off the gas Stibine;

This mold is present in mattresses and mattress covers, especially once they become damp with a baby’s bodily fluids;

Stibine is a very powerful neuro-toxic gas that is heavier than air and in the breathing zone of infants;

A small amount of Stibine, when inhaled, can produce respiratory paralysis;

Infants dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (“SIDS”) have been confirmed to have elevated levels of Antimony in their bodies;

Although the “UK Expert Group on Cot Death Theories” could not substantiate and is said to have discredited this theory, in New Zealand, where parents followed a protocol of sealing up these mattresses and covers, no further crib deaths have occurred.

There are theories questioning the motivations and financing of the UK Expert Group.

Reading all of this information, I can’t say one way or the other if these types of fire retardants cause SIDS.  I can, however, say with reasonable certainly, that I am only one of many who are now contaminated with this chemical that does not belong in our bodies.  And because of multiple chemical exposures, my and other people’s bodies’ natural detoxification processes have become overwhelmed producing all sorts of disabling effects.

Another thing I can say is that I’ve never met a corporate entity that hasn’t put profits over people.  One just needs to look at the tobacco industry to guess how this will play out.

For years there will be denial that the product is unsafe.  Research will be stymied because of big money and influence brought to bear on regulating agencies.  Deaths will continue.  Maybe someday a plaintiff will prevail in a lawsuit.  In the meantime, fearing litigation, some producers may change their lethal chemical mix to another lethal chemical mix in order to keep moving the ball making it harder to make the connection between chemical exposures and illness.

Delay in correcting the problem equals more money for the companies and their shareholders, while increasingly turning the planet into a toxic waste dump.

If you’re interested in reading more, I have included some links.

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Antimony-LIt seems Antimony was also used by the Egyptians in the form of Stibnite as a black eye makeup.

Postscript:  How these chemical exposures will ultimately affect us is a big question, but it can’t be good when toxins keep turning up in our bodies.  The CDC’s most recent report indicates that some 212 chemicals tested for, which are not supposed to be in our bodies, were in most people’s blood or urine.

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Images:  These images were found in the Internet in the public domain and no other attribution could be found.  The feature image was linked to a webpage called Live Science.

Links:

Cot Death and Antimony

Has The Cause of Crib Death (SIDS) Been Found?

The report from the “UK Expert Group on Cot Death Theories”

SIDS: A Preventable Tragedy?

Six Deadly Chemicals You’re Carrying in Your Body

Health Effects of Chemical Exposure

National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals